Clarity and Obscurity in Legal Language

clarity.gifThere is a call for papers for an international conference on Clarity and Obscurity in Legal Language, which will be held from 5 – 9 July 2005. The call deadline is December 2004.

This international conference will explore how the various linguistic disciplines can help us understand the nature of legal language – both oral and written – and how it might be improved and clarified. The conference will present and examine the latest research and theories, along with practical guidance on how to avoid obscurity. It will also review international efforts and projects to make legal language more understandable.

This is of obvious interest to BSL/English Interpreters working in this field, and any Deaf professional that has to work with legal translation.

Call for Papers: Semiotic Analyses of the Language of the Law

IAFL ? Cardiff : 1-4 July 2005

Thematic Symposium


Convenors: Anne Wagner and Sophie Cacciaguidi-Fahy

Interpreting and mapping the law calls for a series of illustrative semiotic analyses. Indeed, the life of the law involves analysing and interpreting the salient features of linguistic, socio-political and cultural realities so as to bring forward new legal concepts, construct new statutes, create new linguistic, behavioural and other codes, etc.

Semiotic analyses of the language of the law are just other ways of pointing the torch, of surfacing, exposing, illustrating a language of identity. Hence, the question of analysing the language of the law needs to be included within other semiotic systems (culture, ethics, politics, codes, gestures, verbal speeches, etc.). They are processes whereby legal reality is produced, maintained, repaired, altered and transformed. Furthermore, legal language must also remain sufficiently flexible and fuzzy in order to allow plurality and not singularity in meaning.

For the 2005 International Association of Forensic Linguists conference, we will propose a thematic symposium on semiotic analyses of the language of the law. Papers will focus on texts, processes, and practices that are linguistic in nature.

Suggested topics for discussion might include:

– semiotic analyses of the language of statutes (determinacy vs. indeterminacy, international, European or domestic statutes, plain language, etc.);
– semiotic analyses of the language of interpretation techniques/processes (legal theories, feminist approach, etc.);
– semiotic analyses of the language of the courtroom (attorney and judicial speech, codes of practice in courts, the language of power, performative speeches, vagueness in jury?s instructions, etc.);
– semiotic analyses of the language of police interviews (statements, questioning, cautions, etc.)
– semiotic analyses of the language of translation/interpretation (. non-native speakers in the judicial setting, problems of meaning, etc.).

Please send your expression of interest, a title and an abstract of no more than 250 words by 20 October to Anne Wagner (